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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

THE ART OF GETTING OUT OF POWER         251

first rule is, a good politician is one who has mastered the art of saying
nothing with a great number of words. A good official never states,
but only denies. With a sufficient schooling in the art of saying per-
petually: "No comment", and "You are right", a good official can go
a long way. A second rule is that he should oblige his friends. A third
rule is that he should take care not to offend. With a tight mouth, a
cultivated, low, pleasant whisper, and a great desire to oblige, such a
man can never be thrown out of power even if he does not rise to the
top. He will die at his desk.

Unfortunately, Su Tungpo was not this type. In the next few years
he broke all these rules of success in politics. On the birth of his boy by
Chaoyun, he had written the following wish:

"May you, my son, grow up dumb and stupid,
And, free from calamities, end up as a premier."

The infant died and so had no chance of carrying out his father's wish.
So we must ask whether a poet-painter can become a successful official
Conceivably, yes, in time of peace, but peace is a relative word, and
there is not a decade in politics in which there are not hot issues to fight
about. A poet-painter, with his detached philosophic point of view, can
scarcely become so involved in the political issues that he is willing to
.play the game and accept the penalties. More often than not, after a
few trials, he laughs at himself for trying to play it at all*

But if Su Tungpo was running away from politics, politics was run-
ning after him. He and Szema Kuang had disagreed on policies, as
independent minds always disagree, but half a year after his arrival at
the capital, Szema Kuang died. Su was left alone in a very prominent
and all too enviable position. It did not take long for the first storm to
break over him, and soon the court fight centred around him. By
January of the following year several dozens of memorials to the throne
had been sent against turn. With the death of Szema Kuang, political
cliques were shaping up—the "Hopei clique", the "Honan clique", led
by the neo-Confucianists, and the "Szechuen clique", of which Su
Tungpo was considered the head. Judging by the redords and Su
Tungpo's insistent desire to get out, he certainly did not know what
that word "Szechuen clique" meant. However, there were enough
provocations for his political opponents to put up a bitter fight against
him. This fight, it must be said in fairness, was started by his brother,
Tseyu. When Tseyu arrived at the capital as a high censor in the
premier's office at the beginning of the new regime, he thought it was
his duty to dean up the government and get rid of all the fence-riders
and remnant politicians who had played ball with Wang Anshih, He
succeeded in banishing the notorious Huiching, and in temporarily